5 Great Silent Auction Ideas for Your Next Event

by Joe Garecht

Silent Auction Items

Guest Post by Zach Hagopian from Accelevents

You’ve decided to use a silent auction at your fundraiser… before finalizing plans, you will first need to collect amazing silent auction items to sell at your event.

Great silent auction items will not only help you attract a larger donor base for your event, but will also create some extra excitement and awareness around your fundraiser.  When someone wins an amazing silent auction item at your fundraiser, they will associate their positive memories from that item with your fundraiser, and will be likely to return again next year!

In order to provide this great experience to your donors, you will need to ensure that your silent auction items are memorable and unique.  So… which types of auction items should you pursue?

To save you time in your event planning schedule, I’ve put together a quick list of the highest performing silent auction items for you to focus on. Once you’ve prioritized these items, it will make item solicitation easier and more organized.

Here are the top 5 best performing silent auction items in the recent silent auctions I’ve been involved with (in no particular order):

Trips and Travel

Travel-related silent auction items are always a huge hit. Whether you are able to collect an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean, or even just a weekend getaway in New England, event guests love having the chance to win an amazing trip. Travel items are experiential in nature, and provide your guests with the chance to create new memories. Some great places to start include:

  • All-Inclusive Trips
  • Weekend Getaways
  • Hotel Stays
  • Airline Tickets or Miles

Outings / Experiences

Continuing on the experiential theme, unique outings or experiences  create a ton of excitement at silent auctions. Guests love bidding on unique experiences, because these items typically present an activity that the bidder has never tried before.

Outings/experiences can include a wide range of items, but some of our favorites include:

  • Spa days
  • Local brewery tours
  • Sunset or harbor cruises
  • Museum tickets
  • Comedy night
  • Hot air balloon rides
  • Outdoor activities (hiking, kayaking, bungee jumping)
  • Theme park tickets

Sports Tickets / Memorabilia

Anything sports-related will always be a huge hit at your fundraiser. Be sure to pay special attention to where your audience lives – you will want most of your sports items to relate to your audience’s home team:

  • Tickets
  • Signed memorabilia
  • Chance to meet local celebrity athletes
  • Golf Outings
  • Ski Passes
  • Spin Classes

Music

Whether your audience trends more towards country music, pop, or rock n’ roll, including music-related items will always garner high bids.  When thinking of music items, try not to limit yourself to concert tickets only.  There are lots of different options:

  • Concert Tickets
  • Backstage passes / chance to meet the musician
  • Signed instruments / albums from famous musicians
  • Music Lessons

Food

Making an appearance at almost every silent auction, food-related items have become a staple of most auction fundraisers. People love going out to dinner, trying new restaurants, or even trying a new kind of food for the first time. From a collection standpoint, you shouldn’t have trouble collecting many food-related items, as there are hundreds of restaurants in every major city, and most are willing to donate gift cards to promote their restaurant. Some great ideas include:

  • Restaurant gift certificates
  • Catering service certificates
  • Dinner & wine pairing
  • Cooking Classes
  • Food gift baskets

After reviewing our list above, you probably noticed an underlying theme across the five categories: most of these amazing items are experiential, not material.   In general, we have found that experiential items outperform material items again and again. Experiential items create memories and journeys for your guests that start during your fundraiser and continue throughout the duration of the item.

Such great experiences will form lasting connections between your donors and your organization, as donors will quickly begin to associate their fun memories with the moment that they won the item at your event.

Even better is that your donors will tell their friends and family about the great experiences they have had, and will certainly connect the prize to your event. This sharing creates amazing word-of-mouth recommendations for your fundraiser and organization, resulting in an even larger donor base for your next silent auction event.

One final tip: do not be selfish with this list!  This guide should be shared with each member of your committee or volunteer staff, so that they can also have success in soliciting the best possible items for your silent auction.

Zach Hagopian is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.

Photo Credit: Sam Howzit

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